File-transfer appliances are good, inexpensive options for many shops.
If your company is like mine, managing an FTP site is another obstacle. When a file is uploaded, for instance, who is notified, and who actually retrieves the file? Where do they put it, what record is kept of the transaction, and how is it logged into the workflow?
In addition, it can be difficult to figure out what the file really is since your customers are likely to be using a different naming convention than you do. It can even be difficult to figure out whose file belongs to whom. "Bob's picture" as a file name is not too helpful if you don't know who Bob is, what the picture is, or what job the picture is for. In addition, who deletes the file? Is the file you are retrieving the latest version?
And there is one more issue that print providers are increasingly running into: FTP sites do not inherently provide the audit and security capabilities that are typically required by state, federal, and medical customers.
There are solutions to the FTP quandary. For instance, some FTP clients include e-mail notification, and your favorite IT guru can modify the interface to force the users to key in pertinent information about the file before they send it. In addition, there are some rather sophisticated software programs such as Markzware's FlightCheck Online, which not only provides e-mail notification and on-the-fly compression, but can actually check the files to see that they will print correctly. Full-fledged DAM solutions such as MediaBeacon and Xinet also include file-transfer management features.
But what if you only want to be able to send files as simply as you send e-mail without any user intervention? Well, there may be a solution for that, too: a file-transfer appliance (FTA).
In research for this column, I tracked down several providers of FTAs including: Tumbleweed (www.tumbleweed.com), which released its SecureTransport product in 2004; Accellion (www.accellion.com), which produces the Courier Secure File Transfer Appliance; and Unlimi-Tech Software (www.utechsoft.com), which offers its Files2U solution.